Madrona Labs Unleashes Soundplane A – Experimental Multitouch Controller
Madrona Labs has announced that their Soundplane A multitouch controller is now available. The Soundplane A claims to be a cross between a conventional music controller, but with the sensitivity and feel of an acoustic instrument. It detects a wide range of touches on its walnut playing surface, from a light tickle to a very firm press. The Soundplane A can be configured as either a 150-note keyboard with position and pressure sensing on each key, or as one continuous surface.
The playing surface is a material custom developed for us, an articulated sheet of walnut veneer bonded to a fiber backing for strength. The case is milled out of alder, a sustainably harvested Northwest hardwood. The company professes to source all of the construction in Seattle, Washington and assemble each Soundplane by hand.
Included with the Soundplane is Aalto for Soundplane, a custom, signal-driven version of our patchable software synthesizer. The Soundplane client software can send MIDI and OSC messages to control other software and hardware.
The Soundplane A sends its data via USB. Currently, you need a computer to run our translator program that generates MIDI and OSC data from the raw USB stream. You can send these messages out a MIDI interface or, in the case of OSC, Ethernet and other kinds of connections as well. Madrona has written the Soundplane software with the help of JUCE, a cross-platform framework that supports Mac OS, Windows and Linux. The custom driver development that supports the Soundplane USB protocol is only ready for Mac OS at this point. We look forward to working on Windows and Linux versions soon. In addition, the client software is open source, so if you want to contribute, get in with the company via their website. The entire instrument is about 28 inches wide by 8 inches deep by 1 inch thick.
The Soundplane’s continuous capacitive sensing technology is patent pending. It is also described in Randy Jones’ NIME paper from 2009 so that you can make your own.
Madrona Labs are now taking preorders for 30 Soundplane A instruments at a special introductory price of $1,695. This price is valid only for the first run of 30 Soundplanes, which funds the startup and will hopefully support further endeavors. Production will reportedly take 8-10 weeks.